Essay Concerning Human Understanding John Locke Full Text

In anticipating a counter-argument, namely the use of reason to comprehend already existent innate ideas, Locke states, "by this means there will be no Difference between the Maxims of the Mathematicians, and Theorems they deduce from them: All must equally allow’d innate, they being all Discoveries made by the use of reason." Whereas Book I is intended to reject the doctrine of innate ideas proposed by Descartes and the rationalists, Book II explains that every idea is derived from experience either by sensation – direct sensory information – or reflection – "the perception of the operations of our own mind within us, as it is employed about the ideas it has got".In Book II, Locke focuses on the ideas of “substances” and “qualities”, in which substances are “an unknown support of qualities” and qualities have the “power to produce ideas in our mind”.Leibniz thought that Locke's commitment to ideas of reflection in the Essay ultimately made him incapable of escaping the nativist position or being consistent in his empiricist doctrines of the mind's passivity.

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Furthermore, Book II is also a systematic argument for the existence of an intelligent being: "Thus, from the consideration of ourselves, and what we infallibly find in our own constitutions, our reason leads us to the knowledge of this certain and evident truth, that there is an eternal, most powerful, and most knowing being; which whether any one will please to call God, it matters not! Locke connects words to the ideas they signify, claiming that man is unique in being able to frame sounds into distinct words and to signify ideas by those words, and then that these words are built into language.

Chapter ten in this book focuses on "Abuse of Words." Here, Locke criticizes metaphysicians for making up new words that have no clear meaning.

Locke followed the Port-Royal Logique (1662) in numbering among the abuses of language those that he calls "affected obscurity" in chapter 10.

Locke complains that such obscurity is caused by, for example, philosophers who, to confuse their readers, invoke old terms and give them unexpected meanings or who construct new terms without clearly defining their intent.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is a work by John Locke concerning the foundation of human knowledge and understanding.

It first appeared in 1689 (although dated 1690) with the printed title An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding.Locke discusses the limit of human knowledge, and whether knowledge can be said to be accurate or truthful.Thus there is a distinction between what an individual might claim to "know", as part of a system of knowledge, and whether or not that claimed knowledge is actual.In 1704 the rationalist Gottfried Leibniz wrote a response to Locke's work in the form of a chapter-by-chapter rebuttal, the Nouveaux essais sur l'entendement humain ("New Essays on Human Understanding").Leibniz was critical of a number of Locke's views in the Essay, including his rejection of innate ideas, his skepticism about species classification, and the possibility that matter might think, among other things.It matters now that Mens Fancies are, 'tis the Knowledge of Things that is only to be priz'd; 'tis this alone gives a Value to our Reasonings, and Preference to one Man's Knowledge over another's, that is of Things as they really are, and of Dreams and Fancies." In the last chapter of the book, Locke introduces the major classification of sciences into physics, semiotics, and ethics.Many of Locke's views were sharply criticized by rationalists and empiricists alike.Substances are “nothing but the assumption of an unknown support for a group of qualities that produce simple ideas in us”.Despite his explanation, the existence of substances is still questionable as they cannot necessarily be “perceived” by themselves and can only be sensed through the qualities.He describes the mind at birth as a blank slate (tabula rasa, although he did not use those actual words) filled later through experience.The essay was one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern philosophy, and influenced many enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley.


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